An artist without reservations

Memories of childhood: on the LP covers in my parents’ hi-fi cabinet, his name appeared particularly often - whether it was an album of operettas or of Christmas songs. His face and voice were indeed familiar to “every child,” since Hermann Prey, who was born in Berlin in 1929, was not just a classical singer, but also a media star. And this during an era long before the internet and social media, when big musical TV entertainment shows were still a part of popular culture.

Schubert lover Hermann Prey had no reservations regarding entertainment, at a time when so-called serious and popular music were seen by many music consumers as strictly separate realms. So many classical music lovers were likely irritated when the always prolific artist would record Schubert Lieder right before coming out with a new folk song LP; this versatility characterized his career from the very beginning up to his death in 1998. With a twinkle in his eye, he summed up this career in the following words: “I’m not a serious (German: “E”) singer, and I’m not an entertainment (German: “U”) singer either - I’m an EU singer!”

© Elke Tschaikner, ORF - Radio Österreich 1


  • Hermann Prey joins the Berlin Mozart Choir as a boy soprano at the age of ten

  • 1951 first radio recording

  • 1954 Prey first works for television

  • 1957 celebrates his debut at the Vienna State Opera as Figaro in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, which is considered his international breakthrough

  • 1959 the baritone performs at the Salzburg Festival for the first time, singing the role of the barber in Richard Strauss’s opera The Silent Woman

  • 1961 the singer, now internationally famous, tours Japan

  • Between 1971 and 1975 he undertakes his most ambitious recording project: the Lied Edition Hermann Prey, encompassing 452 songs from the Middle Ages to the modern era

  • 1975 initiates the Schubertiade Festival in Hohenems, Austria, remaining its artistic director until 1981

  • 1981 gives his role debut as Beckmesser in Wagner’s Meistersinger at the Bayreuth Festival. Publishes his memoirs, First Night Fever, the same year

  • Performs his last song recital on July 12, 1998 at Munich’s Prince Regent Theater

Did you know?

  • There is a Hermann-Prey-Strasse in the Austrian city of Hohenems.

  • Hermann Prey’s son Florian, also a singer, still directs the Herbstliche Musiktage Festival Bad Urach, which was founded by his father.

  • In the German city of Bad Urach, a public space is also named after the singer: Hermann-Prey-Platz.

  • In 1945, just before the end of the Second World War, the teenager was drafted by the German Wehrmacht. Prey’s parents burned the letter and hid their son in the basement of his grandfather’s house.

  • While a music student, Prey founded the Rhythmiktrio, performing with the band in night clubs in order to earn a living.